All about antioxidants

By admin
24 June 2013

These health-boosting compounds aren’t found only in strawberries and green tea – they’re in many other foods too.

What do strawberries, red wine and dark chocolate have in common?

Aside from being great ingredients for a romantic night in or out, the three are surprisingly rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are powerful nutrients used to rid the body of harmful toxins. In fact what you may think is a festive season hangover could be a toxin overload because an accumulation of toxins is likely to lower your energy levels and make you feel tired. You need antioxidants!

Various antioxidants boost your body’s ability to repair, regenerate and protect itself from further damage and can also help ward off illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Studies have shown all plantbased foods ? including fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts and seeds ? are brimming with antioxidants but no single food source can provide all the nutrients you need for good health. Unfortunately eating a punnet of antioxidant-rich strawberries for breakfast will not counteract the effects of a greasy lunch or an alcohol binge.

What’s most important is to eat a variety of foods from the key food groups daily to ensure your basic nutritional needs are being met and then, if you can, select foods that are higher in nutritional value within those groups.

Have a look at just how common antioxidants are:

POTATOES

Hidden gem Potatoes are rich in carotenoids, the same type of antioxidants found in carrots and tomatoes. Carotenoids are believed to have a protective effect against certain cancers.

Why you should eat them The humble potato actually beats some other antioxidant A-listers, including carrots and peppers, in terms of content.

Tip Don’t deep-fry potatoes in oil

PECANS

Hidden gem Pecan nuts are rich in tocopherols, the collection of chemicals more commonly called vitamin E, and have been linked to various health benefits, including a decreased risk of prostate and breast cancer.

Why you should eat them Have you ever noticed that a cut apple turns brown if left uncovered? Or that a car rusts over time if it’s not parked in a garage? This process – the addition of oxygen to a substance – is called oxidation and when it happens to fats in the bloodstream it contributes to the risk of heart disease. Pecans are good protectors against this process.

Tip A study showed that four weeks of eating a handful of pecans daily reduced lipid (fat) oxidation by more than seven per cent.

MUSHROOMS

Hidden gem Ergothioneine, which is also found in wheatgerm, plays an important role in protecting the body’s cells.

Why you should eat them You don’t have to splash out on the exotic kind; widely available button mushrooms contain about 12 times more ergothioneine than wheatgerm, previously considered the best dietary source. In fact research has shown that button mushrooms have as many, and in some cases more, antioxidants than more expensive mushroom varieties. They also rank above tomatoes, pumpkin, carrots and green beans on a scale designed to measure overall antioxidant activity.

Tip The entire mushroom – including the stalk – contains antioxidants but the body or cap of the vegetable has a higher concentration.

CINNAMON

Hidden gem Phenolic volatile oils, which are the active ingredients in most spices.

Why you should eat it Cinnamon and cloves are a rich source of antioxidants.

One teaspoon (5 g) of ground cinnamon contains nearly 1,5 times more phenolics than 100 g of blueberries. One in five South Africans older than 35 has type 2 diabetes, which occurs when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, which is needed to convert food into energy. Half of SA’s sufferers don’t know they have it. Cinnamon has been shown to have a positive effect on blood sugar levels, important for diabetics and those at risk of developing it.

Tip Sprinkle ground cinnamon over cereal.

EGGS

Hidden gem Lutein, which is also found in spinach and other leafy green vegetables, plays an important role in protecting eyes against cataracts and age-related vision loss.

Why you should eat them While other food sources contain much more lutein gram for gram than eggs, your body absorbs the antioxidants found in eggs up to three times more easily, reportedly because of the yolk’s fat content.

Tip Although egg yolks are high in cholesterol a study revealed eating an egg a

day for five weeks doesn’t affect cholesterol levels negatively.

FRESH OREGANO

Hidden gem Rosmarinic acid, which has a stronger antioxidant action than vitamin E.

Why you should eat it Oregano has 42 times more antioxidant activity than an apple, 30 times more than a potato, 12 times more than an orange and four times more than blueberries. Research shows that just one tablespoon of fresh oregano provides the same quantity of antioxidants as a medium-size apple. And while all herbs contain antioxidants, oregano came out top in a Chinese study that rated 39 culinary and medicinal herbs.

Tip Fresh herbs are best. Consider garlic: research has shown that the antioxidant activity of fresh garlic is 1,5 times higher than that of dry garlic powder.

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